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The intellectual context in which Eliot began work on the "long poem" that was to become The Waste Land has much to tell us about formal aspects of his poem. Certainly it reveals something of the problem any artist would have had in finding a perspective on the twentieth century. Emphasis on context, however, should not be taken as an assertion of specific influence. It should not be assumed that Eliot was consciously trying to adjust his presentation of reality to conform with the presentations in science or in the visual arts or even that he was greatly influenced by any specific scientific theory or any aesthetic manifesto. Without a doubt, he was aware of what was happening in science, in philosophy, and in the other arts. And without a doubt, he created structures in art which show his sensitivity to his age and which are formally analogous to structures created by other artists. He arrived, however, not by following anyone but by trying to find his own way. He spent most of the decade before writing The Waste Land as a close student of philosophy, comparative religion, and Buddhism, and his understanding of these subjects is part of the basic context of his art.

Jewel Spears Brooker


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